Monday, April 30, 2012

Ah-Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice [阿仔海南鸡饭] - Breakaway Stall from Tian Tian @ Maxwell Market

The competition is heating up between two Hainanese chicken rice stalls at Maxwell Hawker Centre; the famous incumbent by the name of Tian Tian Chicken Rice and a new entrant by the name of Ah-Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Go read the newspapers [Sunday Times last week] if you still have no idea what i mean. 

To summarise, Ah-Tai is helmed by a very unhappy chef who used to work for Tian Tian. To put it bluntly, he was incensed enough to open a new chicken rice stall just two stalls away from his ex-boss.

That's what i call guts!

Kon has always placed Tian Tian as the top chicken rice stall in Singapore and given this latest development, the Gang of Four intentionally made a trip to Chinatown / Tanjong Pagar just to compare and contrast.

Since we had a lot of Swiss rolls (to be out in another post) before this, half a chicken was definitely not an option and we obediently obeyed our stomachs (a rarity) by ordering two small plates at S$3 each.

There were four of us and opinions differ on the rice. Both Alex and I found it to be better than Tian Tian; stronger garlic fragrance with a slightly more moist texture but Kon thought it was way too oily.

On chicken meat, we were quite unanimous in our review - although smooth with a delicious meaty bite, the meat was a tad too dry for our liking.

I still prefer my chicken rice from Guan Gourmet House!


Stall No 7
Maxwell Food Centre

S$3 a plate

Additional Information
The queue at Ah-Tai was in fact longer than Tian Tian even though it was obvious from the travel guidebooks held tightly in their hands that most of those who visited Tian Tian were foreigners!

Beware of the demand; i was the last few to get my hands on Ah Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice and my watch had not even passed 5.15pm!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

End of Lim Chu Kang Road [林厝港路] - Wooden Jetty, Coast Guard Post & Mysterious House

Lim Chu Kang road is well known in Singapore - it counts the biggest operational cemetery as its occupant and for many male Singaporeans, it hosts arguably the most remote (and likely the biggest) army camp in the country.

Spanning eight long kilometers, the beginning section of Lim Chu Kang (LCK) is actually straight for a strategic reason from the point of Singapore's defense. Can you guess what it is?

From Google map, it is not hard to see that the road is almost parallel to the adjacent Tengah air base runway (this place holds great memories as i was a dental medic stationed in the airbase for my national service).

Therefore, in events of emergency, the lampposts by the roadside would be dismantled to receive airplanes. Interesting right? I am not sure if this is classified information although i have seen it in the national news a few years back.

Of course, LCK is also known as the main connector for the high density of agricultural companies in the Kranji region and the smell of chicken shit is a common complaint from residents of neighbouring townships.

I am going to take a breather from my usual countryside tour and choose instead to drive all the way to the end of LCK. 

It was a journey filled with greenery, no doubt, and the relatively straight route can only be described as relaxing for the driver.

Note the road sign - we are nearing the end and it is time to slow down!

Like other motorists, i can only park my car by the roadside. There is no car park at the end of this road and i bet the dreaded traffic police would not take the extra effort to travel all the way here to fine people for illegal parking.

Unkempt, untidy, unplanned - this is so unlike Singapore! For the naysayers who always complain that Singapore is too 'planned', get your ass out of the touristy areas.

One thing that hit my senses as i stepped nearer was the strong smell of fishiness! The exposed sea bed as a result of the low tide worsened the smell.

There were no security guards and i easily walked down the jetty for a closer look.

Question : do we need to a key to start a speedboat motor?

From movies and drama serials, it seems that a pull at a string is more than sufficient to start the engine to escape from the cops or bad guys (depending on where you stand).

The newly constructed Police Coast Guard base beside the jetty. Their presence is needed to deter illegal immigrants and smugglers due to the close proximity of Malaysia.

End of jetty - right across is of course Malaysia, Singapore's closest neighbour and the one for which we have the most delicate relationship.

Dotted the Johor Strait are many kelongs. Weirdly, i don't see that many kelongs on the other side of the Johor Strait which is cut in the middle by the Johor–Singapore Causeway (新柔长堤).

My way back - this floating jetty is fixed to the seabed simply by the many wooden sticks you see by the sides.

Not sure what wood is used but i guess it must be seaworthy in order to withstand the corroding elements of saltwater and hardy due to the constant exposure to the hot, wet and humid weather.

Seashells attached on the wooden, algae covered section nearest to the water. They appeared to be edible and should taste good stir-fried with chilli.

In case you are curious, buoyancy of the floating jetty is helped by these chains of industrial standard plastic containers.

Something caught my interest here!

An empty looking house on water that is connected to mainland Singapore with its entry point thick with foliage. I must find the way to this mysterious house for a better look! *excited*

Oops! By order of AVA, no trespassing is allowed! With such faint colours, i think i would make a pretty good case in defending myself should i be hauled up to court.

A tightly closed gate (hopefully with chains and lock) would have also bloody stopped me from venturing forward! I rest my case.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Loong Fatt Tau Sar Piah 龍發豆沙饼 [Sweet or Salty] @ Loong Fatt Eating House & Confectionery along Balestier Road

Balestier Road, known as Whampoa for many of the older generation, is well known for one snack - Tau Sar Piah (豆沙饼); translated literally as Bean Paste Biscuit.

Within a short stretch of a few hundred meters, you can find no less than five shops selling this popular Chinese snack. Despite the stiff competition, one shop especially stands out from the others. 

It has a queue!

Established since 1948, Loong Fatt (龍發) has maintained in having only one shop to control the quality in baking this hand-made Teochew biscuit.

Mom is a sucker for tau sar piah and would always buy a few boxes from Balestier where she prays at the ancient Goh Chor Tua Pek Kong. She tried enough to eventually narrow her selection to only 639 [due to the fame of tau sar piah in the area, the unit number is commonly used to differentiate shops like 611, 633 etc].

Loong Fatt does sell other food items but i guess it is more appropriate to touch on their signature tau sar piah in this post. Depending on individuals, you can choose from two basic types of tau sar piah; salty (咸) or sweet (甜).

Salty (咸)
The traditional and easily the favourite type of my mom's generation.

Besides the savoury bean paste that continually persuades you to give it another bite, the key feature that sets Loong Fatt apart from the others is the flaky pastry skin; it is of the right thickness and commands a fluffiness that you could almost miss its existence.

Sweet (甜)
The one popular with the young; with the exception of me (who happens to be the eldest), the rest of the Gang of Four totally preferred the sweet tau sar piah.

It's not difficult to separate the sweet from the salty - the sweet tau sar piah has the obvious sesame seeds outside and the paste also looks darker! And as the name suggests, the taste is almost like the salty tau sar piah, albeit with a sweeter aftertaste.


Kon and I had a discussion on whether there is any difference in the dough used to make the pastry of the sweet and salty. And there's no better person than to ask the staff themselves!

Answer: The dough for both types of tau sar piah is the same! Even though sesame seeds appeared on the outside of the "sweet", they were also included in the making of the "salty" bean paste.

639 Balestier Road

Salty Tau Sar Piah - S$0.60 each
Sweet Tau Sar Piah - S$0.60 each
[Boxes charged separately for takeaway]

Additional Information
No operation on Sunday but do note the shop might also close early on really good days when the tau sar piah is sold out. And from experience, it can close as early as 3pm.

Call 6253-4584 to avoid disappointment!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Birdz of Play @ Jurong Bird Park (裕廊飞禽公园), Singapore

Another water playground?!

Yes, i have the same sentiment although it's not hard to understand why commercial corporations are so keen to have them. It's a pity all of them are skewed towards kids from five to twelve years old!

Built at a cost of S$7 million dollars, Birdz of Play is similar to the Rainforest KidzWorld at Singapore Zoo, a tourist attraction that falls under the umbrella of Wildlife Reserves Singapore [which also manages Jurong Bird Park].

An obvious difference is the size; Rainforest KidzWorld is way bigger and provides a more holistic educational experience for children [horses, chicks, rabbits and even a replica of a kampong house].

The lack of big, towering trees in the area also means that the numerous water features look extremely enticing in the sunny weather! Guess i have to bring along my niece and cousin next time as an excuse to enjoy the playground in a more legitimate manner.

Not everything features water; a slightly smaller dry area is segregated for those who didn't have extra clothing but still wish to have some fun. 

A building (known as multi-purpose pavilion) within the compound is where you can do some expensive shopping, have a Ben and Jerry sundae and even play arcade games.

Most parents prefer to stay in the shade while keeping a watchful eye on their hyperactive kid(s)!

Surface can be hot! Wear your shoes/slippers at all times and prepare to laugh when visitors unknowingly stepped out of the water zone barefooted.

When i saw this, i could not help comparing it to the one in Singapore Zoo. With the exception of birds replacing animals in the design, there is so much similarity! Oh well, not that it matters much when most of us were already melting under the hot sun.

It's always enjoyable to see the humongous bucket in play.

If only i am situated right underneath it!


Map of Birdz of Play
As Above


Additional Information
Click HERE for my post on Penguin Coast
Click HERE for my post on Lory Loft